Miguel Nogueira is a Concept Designer at Frictional Games who became interested in concept art at a young age. He started experimented in traditional arts until seeing character concepts by other 3D artists. It was then he jumped head first into the world of concept design, using KeyShot in his workflow to present both quick progress sketches and final high quality renders. We talk with Miguel to find out more about his process and why KeyShot is such an important tool.

Miguel Nogueira

Modeling software used: ZBrush

What sparked your interest in becoming a Concept Artist?
A part of me has subconsciously wanted to break into the creative field since I can remember. I first learned about concept art around the age of fifteen, seeing it on DeviantArt in 2005 when the site was at its prime and was really the only source to discover and share art online. All art there blew me away, but there was something about concept art which really drew me in. I experimented with fine art, graphic design, graffiti, typography, and many other art and design fields at college later on, but it wasn’t until I saw some robot designs by Darren Bartley and Nivanh Chanthara, that I stopped and said, “That’s what I want. They look like they’re having lots of fun doing those. I want in.”

What was the turning point in your career?
I think one of them was landing my first serious job at Frictional Games. The other was collaborating with people from Gearbox Software. I realized I was in the big boy’s league now and had to do my best–I was too flattered and young to tell them I couldn’t. Besides that, as someone who is constantly learning, I really get a kick out of positive feedback from industry professionals or computer graphics communities and magazines. My energy fills up when I see an artist I admire comment or like my work. It’s magical to see your personal heroes and inspirations do that. One day you’re their groupie, the next day they are cheering for you. It makes me go into a flow state of working harder, faster, and better. My will to work comes bursting out like an energy blast out of nowhere, like a muse or voodoo magic. I’m fortunate to say that every day is an opportunity to have a turning point, sneaking in at any moment!

What is unique about your approach to a project?
I didn’t have much going for me when my career started. It was five years ago I began taking my art seriously and only a couple of years ago that I started working as a concept artist. I try to bring together my graphic design sense for aesthetics, my personal life experiences for storytelling, or any other knowledge I’ve gained. I also like to think in analogies, metaphors, and jokes a lot, sneaking them into a design. Every concept has the capacity to stand on something other than what it looks like at first glance. I try to add some substance, work on what it really stands for, make sure it’s not too literal or too easy. Along with that, I love to study and to go deep into a subject, as there is more chance to find something of value the deeper you go. I draw diagrams, study anomalies on human DNA to come up with zombies and monster designs, I consume culture and subculture, capture accidents to use on a different context, experiment and drift. I love my experiments as I would an ugly child, postponing criticism and judgment.

What is your primary 3D modeling software?
ZBrush! It’s very analogous to real clay and it never feels like work, but rather like a game or, at least, very analogous to being a kid playing with sand or mud.

Where in the process do you use KeyShot?
I may use it to finish a project with a render or to present a series of work in progress sketches with a KeyShot shader. KeyShot excels at doing quick, high-quality renders. It’s great to get a finish level quick and hybridized my process–brainstorming quick ZBrush sculpts, then rendering them in KeyShot as clay, metal or other material to present it as a work in progress. Other times, I use KeyShot to get a basic render and paint over it digitally, but I really enjoy making my library of shaders–it saves time in the long run.

It’s awesome when a tool works with you, but even better when a tool works for you, which KeyShot does all the time.”

What makes KeyShot an important tool to have?
That is a very good question. There are a lot of great render engines, but KeyShot allows me to create renders very, very quick and with a high level of quality. With KeyShot, I can focus all my time on sculpting and designing with the last 10% going to render. It almost feels like doing the design work and then outsourcing the render to someone else. It’s awesome when a tool works with you, but even better when a tool works for you, which KeyShot does all the time. You don’t have to fiddle with many settings, and you don’t have to ‘learn’ it. It’s get in, get out. In other words, with KeyShot, I focus all my energy on designing. A luxury I didn’t find possible with other render engines and not as well.

What advice would you give to someone interested in doing what you do?
Many times artists tend to copy what’s popular in the industry, which is fine, but there’s a broader influence map you can take with you. Following in line with the entertainment industry will only get you so far. I find that the art that I stop to get a good look at for more than three seconds are the ones where the artist is communicating something that is unique to them, that only they can say–an experience they had in life. It’s not a copy of a copy of a copy. In addition, the bandwidth of the world is far greater than the one found in your internet connection or TV set. Get inspiration from unlikely places–graffiti, typography, furniture design, nature, travel–everything has the power to amplify what knowledge you already have and show you entirely new avenues of exploration.